Creating a Womb Wish Box

As a childfree woman by choice, it can be hard for me to relate to the idea of procreation, pregnancy, and motherhood that is often present in stories, especially mythologies surrounding the divine feminine.

On some levels, I’ve often felt that it’s a cop out when people overemphasize the fertility aspects of the Goddess and feminine identity. When fertility is approach with such a literal perspective that it excludes any women who choose not to or can’t have children, I think it becomes more detrimental than helpful as a spiritual symbol.

However, there are some beautiful and vital qualities that are often associated with the womb or motherhood—nurturing, growth, creation. They’re important attributes (for both men and women), and it would be equally detrimental to ignore them and the womb altogether.

This year, in preparation for my second annual yoni party, I decided I wanted to do something that honored the symbolism of fertility without resorting to the trite reference to physical pregnancy or childbirth (in other words, something I, as a child-free woman, could relate to as much as a mother could).

I came up with a womb wish box.

It’s pretty simple, building off of the idea of a standard wish box. Any box will do, but I chose to use an oval one. I painted it red, mostly because that’s the acrylic paint I had but also because red feels very feminine to me. It’s the color I associate with sacred sexuality, which is the first step to sacred creation.

Paper Mache boxes are inexpensive, easy to paint, and make for some wonderful "gift wrap" that also functions as a gift.

Paper Mache boxes are inexpensive, easy to paint, and make for some wonderful “gift wrap” that also functions as gifts themselves.

After sealing it with a thin coat of mod podge to prevent the pain from scraping off or bleeding onto other things, I glued a ribbon uterus to it.

Okay, it’s really an upside down triangle with two pieces coming off the sides, but it looks enough like a uterus to pass in an artistic way. The scalloped ribbon created more of a uterine effect than straight-edged ribbon.

I added two little crystals as the ovaries, and voila! A uterus to nurture my hopes and dreams in. It’s a simple project, with a beautiful way for me to honor the creative potential of my body.

My own completed wish box, ready to be put on my altar.

My own completed wish box, ready to be put on my altar.


Allies are People Too

Did you hear? Fred Phelps, the founder of Westboro Baptist Church, died this week.

And, of course, all of social media lit up with everyone’s opinion about the significance of his death and the “appropriate” response.

I’m not interested in adding to that dialogue. We each need to figure out how to respond to the social blight that was Westboro’s founder, and we’re all going to have different responses. I have chosen to not allow it to disrupt my life, just as I didn’t allow his fucked-up opinions to upset me all that much when he was living. I have plenty of other people in my life to be angry at and to hate for the harm they have caused me directly and don’t have the energy to waste on someone who merely hated the idea of me without really knowing me. Others feel differently, and that’s fine.

What I do want to talk about is how we’re approaching the opinion of others, especially of those who are “different” from us.

Right now, the debate is over whether it’s appropriate to revel in the death of Phelps and to protest his funeral. The LGBT community is pretty split. Some think it’s a good idea. Other’s think a compassionate approach is stronger.

When my partner chose to voice his support for the compassionate response, he was dismissed by an acquaintance for being a straight, white male who wasn’t in the military—the implication that he didn’t have any right to add to the commentary about this public figure.

It was the tipping point in the frustration I have had recently with regard to the treatment of allies. As a bisexual and as a feminist (aka, as a bifeminist), I’ve had my fair share of frustration towards allies who claim to “want to help” but who royally fuck up because they simply aren’t willing to listen to how they might be hurting another or perpetuating something negative.

I get it.

We want our allies to be willing to listen to us. We need them to attempt to see from our perspective rather than just from the perspective of privilege.

However, I’m also really uncomfortable with the way allies are treated in feminist or queer groups. For over a year now I’ve watched as men are insulted and harassed because they dared to try to protest the objectification of women in the media in a way that didn’t match up perfectly with some feminists’ ideals or as straight people (or at least people who are assumed to be straight) have been told to shut up simply because they are straight.

I’m not saying that we shouldn’t confront someone if we feel they are being insensitive or prejudiced (after all, even the most well-meaning person has internalized prejudice to confront), but I’m concerned that I don’t see people engaging with allies in beneficial ways as a whole. I don’t see understanding and patience towards them as they try to navigate the layers of their privilege. I don’t see any sort of compassion towards them as human beings who are struggling to understand some complex and difficult issues.

I don’t see any room for them to have their own journey and identity development as an ally.

Rather, I see people telling them to shut up, stop thinking, and accept what they are being told by (usually) one person in an oppressed group.

Where do we, as people who have experienced oppression, get off thinking that we can discount someone else’s thoughts because of an aspect of their identity?

We should know better.

Allies need to listen in order to be good allies, but listening doesn’t mean that their perspective and thoughts are automatically devalued.

Dialogue is how social change happens—passionate discussion, sometimes even passionate disagreement.

We don’t need more people who follow group pressure blindly. We need people who are willing to question the social constructs around them and to dare to disagree with the status quo. Shutting down someone because they have questions—or even because they disagree with you—doesn’t encourage critical thinking. At best, it subdues a person’s willingness to engage. At worse, it alienates them completely.

I don’t think every person in an oppressed group should make themselves available to be the source of information from which the privileged can learn, but I do think that we need to at least develop the ability to turn discussion down kindly, admitting that we don’t feel like engaging with them rather than blaming their privilege (note, if they are asking questions, they’re wrestling with their privilege, not ignoring it).

We also need to be willing to accept where there might be room for genuine disagreement without someone being a bigot, as in this case, with one person choosing to respond to Phelps’ death with love while another wanted to experience the depths of her hatred. If the LGBT community is filled with a diversity of responses to Phelps, how can we disdain a straight person for having as diverse of a reaction to his death?

For the most part, allies are well-meaning and are going through some pretty tough work to confront privilege. There’s no reason to treat them with hostility because they have to go through that process. It’s one thing to get pissed off at someone for being a deliberate asshole; it’s quite another to castigate someone because they don’t see exactly as we do.

I think in our attempts to have our voices heard, we may have forgotten that one of the tenets of both feminism and queer activism is that no one should be treated with disrespect and contempt, no matter what group they’re from. The idea that someone’s voice and thoughts aren’t valid because of their genitals or sexual orientation is the exact same kind of prejudice that we’ve been fighting. We need to treat our allies with the courtesy that we believe should be afforded to all human beings, even if we think they are misguided.

Seven Life Lessons Disney Movies Taught Me

[Note: a friend informed me that Thumbelina wasn’t actually done by Disney but by Don Bluth. I’m leaving it in because I feel like most animated movies of this style tend to get the same attitude, even if they’re not strictly Disney]

Disney’s Frozen is getting a ton of attention right now, and as with almost every single one of their other movies, the critics are having a field day. I’m counting down to how long it takes someone to find “sex” written in the frost dust coming from Elsa’s hands in “Let it Go.” The song has already been accused of promoting a gay agenda, despite the fact that it has more to do with being alone than with any hint of romance. And of course, even though Disney has made huge strides in offering up a more diverse version of the princess fairy tale, there are those who think Frozen is a failure because it wasn’t quite perfect enough.

I laugh whenever the critics come out to play. It tickles me to try to find all the secret subliminal messages people claim are hidden in movies and amuses me only slightly less to hear the never-ending complaints about the horrible morals, standards, and overall role models Disney princesses present. I get it–when you’re watching a kid’s movie, it’s easy to find fault with all the little elements that suddenly seem so loud, and when your fixated on something like sex, you see it everywhere, regardless of whether it’s actually there. Disney is hardly the worst offender as far as unhealthy media goes, but  you wouldn’t know that with the way the love-to-haters talk. The problem with taking easy shots at Disney is that, by refusing to acknowledge where there is good as well as bad, it makes even the legitimate concerns seem petty.

It’s not that Disney doesn’t have concerning elements. It’s true that the movies tend to present an unrealistic view of love, making a wedding or kiss the grand closing more often than not. It’s also true that they seem to be stuck in one Princess body-type and that sometimes they sexualize stories that don’t need it (ahem, Pocahontas). However, I have always found Disney movies to hold more empowering and inspiring messages than either the conservative or liberal critics want to admit. Here are just a few of the lessons I got from Disney as a child and as an adult:

Dreams are worth pursuing

A dream is a wish your heart makes
When you’re fast asleep.
In dreams you can lose your heartache;
Whatever you wish for, you keep. –Cinderella

From Cinderella to the Princess and the Frog, pursuing one’s dreams is one of the consistent themes in most Disney movies. It’s easy to get distracted by the fact that, for many of the princesses, their dream is to find love, but then again, I don’t necessarily think love is such a horrible dream—it’s just presented a bit myopically most of the time.

That being said, the dream songs always make me cry because they remind me that no matter where you are in life—poor, sheltered, outcast, revered, confused, cursed, or just plain bored—you are allowed to define your own desires for your life and to pursue them to the best of your ability.

Tiana surveying the building for her restaurant, from The Princess and the Frog. 2009

Tiana surveying the building for her restaurant, from The Princess and the Frog. 2009

You are your own best guide

If the choosing gets confusing,
Maybe it’s the map you’re using.
You don’t need a chart to guide you.
Close your eyes and look inside you! –Jacquimo in Thumbelina

I love that Disney characters rely on their intuition and heart to guide them.  They may not always make the right choices, but they own their own decisions and stand up for what they believe is right. They are faced with some pretty tough choices, juggling the desires of their families with their own internal needs and beliefs. That’s pretty damn mature, even when they screw things up royally.

Mulan discovered to be a girl impersonating a boy, from Mulan 1998

Mulan discovered to be a girl impersonating a boy, from Mulan 1998

Marrying for the wrong reasons isn’t worth it

How dare you, all of you! Standing around deciding my future?! I am not a prize to be won! –Jasmine in Aladdin

For all the criticism that Disney receives about teaching girls that marriage is the goal of every story, I’ve never heard anyone praise Disney for the way they consistently discourage marriage for wealth, to please family, or to fulfill duty. Their princesses may get married in the end, but they often start out refusing to get married to someone they don’t love. Let’s celebrate that Elsa and Merida don’t even need love interests at the end of their stories, but let’s also give a shout out to Aurora, Jasmine, Pocahontas, Belle, and Mulan for taking a stand against being pressured into marriage.

Jasmine holding the scraps of a suitors clothing.  Aladdin

Jasmine holding the scraps of a suitors clothing, from Aladdin 1992

Love transcends societal lines

New and a bit alarming
Who’d have ever thought that this could be?
True that he’s no prince charming
But there’s something in him that I simply didn’t see. –Belle from Beauty and the Beast

Robin Hood and Maid Marion, Belle and the Beast, Ariel and Eric, Jasmine and Aladdin, Cinderella and Charming, Pocahontas and John Smith, Tod and Copper, Tarzan and Jane, Quazimodo and Esmerelda…what do they all have in common? Their connection to each other overcame their societal “stations.” So many of the stories that Disney writes are stories of forbidden connections, and one of their consistently admirable themes is that love has the power to overcome prejudice and cultural obstacles. Note, not all of these are even about romances. Some of them are friendships.

The Hunchback of Notre Dame 1996

The Hunchback of Notre Dame 1996

Being different doesn’t make you bad

Thumbelina: I must be the only little person in the world. I wish I were big
Mother: Oh, no, Thumbelina. No. Don’t ever wish to be anything but what you are.–From Thumbelina 

Yes, Disney does tend to reinforce stereotypical beauty standards with most of their protagonists, but I think they also have a pretty good track record of affirming that difference doesn’t make you bad. Elsa is definitely my favorite misunderstood “villain” at the moment, but the Beat is also a great example of a character who was assumed by everyone to be evil because he was so different but who turned out to be far more civilized than the other people who were “normal.”  Let’s not forget Dumbo, Pinocchio, Quasimodo, Thumbelina, and Lilo who all struggled with feeling different.

Who is the real monster in Beauty and the Beast? 1991

Who is the real monster in Beauty and the Beast? 1991

You are more than your body

You’ll have your looks, your pretty face.
And don’t underestimate the importance of body language, ha! –Ursula from The Little Mermaid

Let’s face it, Eric didn’t fall in love with Ariel’s body. Despite the fact that Ursula tried to convince Ariel that all she needed was her looks, it was her voice, not her body, that Eric had fallen for. And Ursula didn’t entrap him with her beauty; she entrapped him by impersonating Ariel singing.

Ariel's voice trapped in Ursula's necklace from The Little Mermaid 1989

Ariel’s voice trapped in Ursula’s necklace from The Little Mermaid 1989

Your family doesn’t get to define you

Mother knows best
Listen to your mother
It’s a scary world out there. –Mother Gothel in Rapunzel 

There’s a pretty consistent family model that comes out in many Disney movies—the overbearing, often abusive parent/step-parent who tries to hold the protagonist back and force her into conformity with rules (or just outright kill her). Perhaps the reason that I don’t find the love themes as problematic as some is because I see the lack of love the protagonists have in their home lives. From Cinderella being forced into slavery to her family to Rapunzel being isolated from the rest of the world, these girls are often dealing with unloving, dysfunctional situations, yet they refuse to allow their home lives to determine what love or freedom should look like. To me, it’s less a story of a character falling in love with someone she has barely met as it is a story about a character realizing that love is possible for her and that she can get out of the horrible place she’s been confined to her whole life.

Can you really blame Cinderella for wanting to marry a man she had danced with once when she was a slave to her stepmother? Cinderella 1950

Can you really blame Cinderella for wanting to marry a man she had danced with only once when she was a slave to her stepmother? Cinderella 1950

It’s become almost fashionable to hate Disney. I’ve been told my whole life that I should hate Disney, for liberal and conservative reasons. Although I agree with some of the concerns that others have shared, for the most part I think that people see what they want to see in Disney movies. Sometimes the criticisms start before anyone has even had a chance to consider what is being criticized. Disney is an easy target for those who want an “other” to blame for the corruption of children, but here is at least one child who learned independence and resilience from watching them over and over.

Birthing my Future: Lessons on Transition with Artemis

Since I wrote this post on Artemis, I have felt myself preparing for transition. Truth be told, I’d been feeling the stirrings for far longer than that…almost exactly nine months. For much of that time, the stirrings were more intellectual, dreaming of what might happen, thinking about taking steps, considering what the changes in my life might look like.

Towards the holidays, I started to really feel the need to change my life up. I began earnestly looking at where my path might lead. I prepared for grad school, took the GRE, started looking at new jobs in mental health, even pushed for vacations to get a new perspective on my routines.

But it wasn’t the right time for me to begin my transition.

I’ve had a particularly hard time with the winter this year, and I think a lot of it had to do with the fact that I myself felt so frozen, not in a time of rest and dormancy, rather as if my life force were being held captive by the season. I don’t like being held back after I’ve made a decision to move forward. When my initial attempts to get into grad school by last fall fell through, I settled into a restless period of waiting. I felt as if I were crouched to leap at any opportunity, yet not quite desperate enough to just make change for change’s sake. Waiting for the right change to present itself was torturous.

I restlessly surrounded myself with plants, trying to bring a sense of growth into my life, but no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t will the winter outside my windows to go away.

Yoga with Artemis helped. She gave me courage to keep preparing myself for change when fear tried to convince me to let well enough alone. She gave me the motivation to plunge into the discomfort of uncertainty with regard to the next year. She gave me hope that with that uncertainty might come possibility.

And finally, I’ve come to it. The transition has started. The cards have fallen into place (seriously, you should have seen my tarot reading for this month!).

Now Artemis is standing with me in my birth pangs. In a few weeks, I’ll be starting a new job/career and mailing off my application to grad school. I’m exhilarated and excited, of course. But there’s also pain.

With my new beginning also comes a type of ending. Not a permanent, never-going-to-see-you-again ending, but an ending to the way my relationships and life have worked up until now. I love the people that I’ve worked with for the past several years. They’ve been like family to me. I’ve stayed where I am as much because of them as because of my own needs for incubation. To leave is heartbreaking.

For that Artemis is there with her fierce independence, not scorning my connection, but reminding me that connection, like life, is meant to be fluid. She reminds me that it’s loving to say goodbye when it’s time to go. Life isn’t about staying the same; life is about changing. When I resist change because of connection, I dishonor both life and connection.

I know I’m on the right path for myself. I’m so excited about the possibilities. The uncertainty of the next few months feels gloriously wild…just like the spring that is beginning to peak out from hibernation. But with each new opportunity, I’m reminded that there are also endings. I honor those endings today and look forward to the transitioning of relationships along with the transitioning of employment.

Revolutionary Resolutions: Stop Fighting Bad Habits

Ooh, guess what! The New Year is officially two months old! Feels like it’s been longer, doesn’t it? Especially with that damn Mercury Retrograde starting off month two with a bang. In the spirit of Retrograde, which is best spent reviewing old projects, I’ve been cleaning out some of my blog topics. I came across one that I had intended to do in January about fighting bad habits—namely that we shouldn’t.

By the way, how are all those New Year’s Resolutions holding up? Have you kept them? Messed up a few times but gotten back on track? Or have you given up entirely as we enter March?

Don’t worry; I’m not here to chastise you for failing or to try to motivate you to try harder.

I’m here to talk about the purpose of bad habits.

Yep! They have a purpose—a purpose that we each assign to them as we develop them. And I have a radical theory that we actually shouldn’t fight bad habits. Rather in order to truly overcome them, we have to understand what their purpose is in our lives. Like nightmares, they have a message to deliver, and they won’t go away until they deliver it.

I first developed this theory during one of the many times that I was trying to stop cutting. I’d had bad luck since I was a teen in forcing myself not to self-harm. Every time I resisted the urge to self-harm, the urge got stronger. Giving in just made it stronger too.

I know, I know, bad cycle…but I didn’t know how to break it! Part of me, I guess, really didn’t want to break it.

Then one day, someone actually praised my self-harm. Rather than admonishing me, “You have to promise me you’ll never do that again. EVER!”, she said that she was glad that I had done what I needed to survive. She thought my self-harm had been a good thing in my younger years because it had helped me cope with some pretty monstrous circumstances. Now that I knew that it wasn’t the best coping mechanism, I could develop new ones that nurtured me rather than harmed me.

When she said that, I felt pride. I realized that part of the reason that I was having such a hard time stopping my cutting was because, deep down, I didn’t see it as a negative thing. I saw it as a friend who had been there for me during my darkest times, preventing me from killing myself in the only way that I could think of. It was the means I used to keep myself together and grounded enough to function in an incredibly toxic world.

In a way, my bad habit had been my savior.

But I also knew that she was right. It was no longer a coping mechanism that I needed, and it was time to respectfully retire it.

Even if our survival skills have become impediments we would like to let go of because they have ceased to serve us, we can still love ourselves with them. In appreciation of our survival, we can be awed at how our resources brought us through, even when these resources were things like indifference, a wall of rage, a cold heart…We learn to embrace ourselves as humans with faults & problems. ~Beyond Survival by Maureen Brady

Since then, I have taken this approach whenever I need to replace a behavior with something else. Rather than trying to wrestle with the habit and, ultimately, with myself, I have a conversation with the habit. I sit with it in meditation and ask it what it has to teach me. What purpose does it serve? What need does it fulfill? What fears does it assuage? When I understand why I rely on that habit, I can address the needs that underlie it and find other ways of meeting those needs.


Sometimes I even draw a picture of what the habit might look like. I try to represent what it’s trying to do for me and what it is actually doing for me. With the picture above, insecurity makes me want to hold onto other things too tightly, but I end up choking myself instead.

Ultimately, I don’t “quit” my “bad habits.” I make them unnecessary. As I develop new ways of addressing my needs, I don’t need them anymore. They fall out of my life naturally.

That’s not to say there isn’t a struggle, but the struggle becomes informed. I know why I’m struggling, and I can approach the struggle with compassion and self-care. I can befriend myself in my attempts to change rather than alienating myself.

In a world where advertisements are constantly trying to convince us to fight ourselves or erase ourselves in order to be “better,” it’s a revolutionary idea…but then again, isn’t love usually pretty revolutionary?

Perhaps sometimes it’s possible to overcome a habit we don’t like by sheer power of will, but ultimately, I think we damage ourselves when we do because we fail to take into account that our habits are doing something for us…something that our minds and bodies feel they need. Strong-arming our behavior into something else without trying to understand what motivates the behavior creates enmity with ourselves and, ultimately, heightens our chances of relapsing into the same habit or unconsciously replacing it with something equally destructive.

So if you’ve failed at your New Year’s Resolution, I want to congratulate you. This is your opportunity to turn a resolution into a revolution. Radical self-love. Radical self-respect. Radical change. We’re only two months into the year. It’s a perfect time to start a new pattern of resolutions!